Pakistan's finest batsmen, through the best part of my cricket-watching years, have not been the prettiest. They were the ones that got the job done, smashingly well at that, and none superior to that man, Javed Miandad. Then Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed and later, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar. They were certainly not graceless, the last two especially, but neither was a jaw-dropping stylist either. For that, we have…
Majid's last Test had a fun batting order: Mohsin Khan (pretty), Mudassar Nazar (not pretty), Majid Khan (pretty), Javed Miandad (not pretty), Zaheer Abbas (pretty) and Saleem Malik (not pretty). Unfortunately, Majid fell for a 13-ball duck in that game. But he had made a name as a batsman most pleasing to the eye over the course of a near-20-year-long Test career. Right-handed Majid was elegant in the way left-hand batsmen usually are, with flowing drives and pulls, his bat coming down in a graceful arc. What gave him an air of sophistication was the somewhat laidback appearance at the crease, which led to more than one critic suggesting that it didn't matter to him enough. It certainly did. A long and quite successful career at first-class and Test level proves that.
One of Pakistan's absolute greats, Abbas was, at his best, almost the perfect batsman, beautiful to watch and someone his team could count on to lead the charge - not always a given with batsmen so pleasing to the eye. Abbas finished with a Test average of 44.79. In Australia, it was 40.62, and in England, where he also found a happy, long-term home with Gloucestershire, it was 56.06. He wasn't quite so successful in India, strangely, or New Zealand and the West Indies. But wherever he played, Abbas wowed onlookers like few could at the time, certainly among right-handers. In many ways, he was the anti-Viv Richards. Both Richards and he scored a lot of runs and dominated attacks, and were equally stylish in their different ways, but Richards was more hammer 'em while Abbas was knife through butter. He was especially alluring because he hit so many boundaries and looked, at times, like he was worried about hurting the ball when banishing it.
Mohsin Khan walked away from the game at the age of 31 to become an actor in India. He left with some pretty impressive performances and numbers to his name, but they don't tell of how, in late 1983, he seemed like he could make himself taller than he was at the crease and get on top of the bounce from Dennis Lillee, Geoff Lawson, Rodney Hogg and Carl Rackemann to score 390 runs at 43.33 in a five-Test series in Australia. At the time, pace and bounce were the weaknesses of many an opening bat from the subcontinent, but Mohsin - tall and loose-limbed, with in-vogue long hair - was cut from a different cloth (and even in the regulation whites of the time, he looked more stylish than his team-mates). He could have played on, surely, and had he done so it would have only made Pakistan that much more appealing a side.
From the mid-1980s, we jump straight to the late-1990s and 2000s, and to the man who started out as Yousuf Youhana but really came into his own after changing his name to Mohammad Yousuf. Like Abbas before him, the best part about Yousuf was how well he balanced a hunger for runs with grace and grandeur. With 7530 runs in 90 Tests, at an average of 52.29, and 9720 in 288 ODIs at 41.71, he is among Pakistan's top five run-getters in both formats. Like the other three, Yousuf was supple, graceful, and - what's the best word? - calm. Calm himself, of course, and so unhurried, so in control, so peaceful that he created a sense of serenity while he was out in the middle. Was it the exaggerated backlift? Was it the time he seemed to create between bowler releasing ball and batsman doing something about it? Or was it, maybe, Younis Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq on either side of him in the batting order? Yousuf stood out. An unusual run-machine who rarely ever looked clumsy.
Some say he should be included in the current Fab Four - lose one of Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Joe Root. That, or just make it the Fab Five because there can't be a list of great current-day batsmen without this young man. It's tough to say exactly why he sets the pulse racing because Azam is not quite as obviously magnificent as the other four stylists on this list. He isn't even built like them; not as languid nor as nimble. The thing about him is that he never looks ugly, or gauche, not for a moment. His statements on style aren't as conspicuous as, say, Williamson's, but you'll find them - enough to be bowled over - if you are attentive. Think soft-shouldered suits and a dollop of the blasé. That's Azam.
When I can began writing this piece, I didn't think it would end it with five right-hand batsmen and not even Anwar in it. Here we are, though - and when it comes to Team Pakistan... you know the cliché.